Stacking the NL Central

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Last year the NL Central was the best division in all of the baseball. Three of the five teams in the division won over 97 games and made the playoffs with the Cardinals winning their 3rd Central division title in as many years. The Cubs also made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 along with the Pirates – both as wild card teams.

While everyone in baseball is enamored with the Cubs and the talent they have accumulated both in terms of prospects they have developed and with the players acquired via trades and free agency (this writer as well), let’s not forget the Cardinals haven’t gone anywhere. They return largely the same team from last year, with the exception of John Lackey and Jason Heyward (both signed by the Cubs).

I do see the Cubs winning their first Division title since 2008, and I expect them to go far into the playoffs this year. I also will not discount the Cardinals as a team that can go far in the playoffs. As a lifelong Brewer fan, it pains me to talk kindly about the Cardinals and Cubs. The Cardinals denied the Brewers their first ever World Series title in 1982 and the Cubs are…. well, they are the Cubs.  They have always invaded both County Stadium and Miller Park and have turned those places into “home away from home” games for years.

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Living in what I call Cardinal Country outside St. Louis, Missouri, I hear, read and see plenty of coverage of the team. In many ways, I know their team as well as I know the Brewers. The Cardinals, while projected by many to have fewer wins and be less of a presence this year, will go head to head with the Cubs for the Division. If they can remain healthy, I expect the Cardinals to come close to 90 wins this year.

Here is where I see the division playing out this year – no, I don’t see another season of 97 or more wins again for the top 3 teams.

Chicago Cubs 95-67 I see too much talent on this team along with a great manager to finish anywhere other than 1

st

in the division. This is one of the scariest teams I have seen on paper. A great blend of youth and veterans that know how to win. The key questions for the Cubs this year are 1) will the young players build on last year’s outstanding season and take the next step, and 2) will the Starting Pitching stay healthy and live up to the expectations.

Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

St. Louis Cardinals 90-72 The Cardinals have been the gold standards of teams for years! They are always in contention with a cabinet full of division titles, NL titles and World Series trophies. The Cards suffered some injuries last year that derailed their season in the playoffs. However, when healthy, the Cardinals are tough to beat and even tougher to beat against. Will Molina bounce back and as he gets older? How productive will he be? Is Wainright healthy enough to be the Ace he has been for years or is this his Swan Song? My money is on the Cardinals staying healthy and fighting the Cubs for the division.

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Pittsburgh Pirates 85-77 I see Pittsburgh on the outside looking in this year for both the division title and the playoffs. A lot of teams have made great improvements from last year. So much so, that I feel Pittsburgh won’t be able to take the next step and capture that elusive division crown.

Milwaukee Brewers 70-95 Maybe I am optimistic about the Brewers, but I see the talent on this roster. The SP can’t be as horrible as it was last year, can it? I think Milwaukee will exceed expectations this season. It is clear they are rebuilding, but the talent is there. The question is, will it come out?

Cincinnati Reds 65-97 The Reds, like the Brewers, are also in the early stages of a rebuild. They still have some talent on the roster in guys like Votto and Bruce. The question is, who else will be traded for the future?

How do you see the division playing out? Let me know in the comment section.

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